Baby and toddler groups are back on. But what a rollercoaster it’s been during the last 18 months or so. Both for class providers and for new parents.
This week a new report from the House of Commons Petition Committee has been published. Amongst other things, it looks back on the issues raised when guidelines were not clear for baby and toddler groups. As well as every time lockdown restrictions were lifted, and furthermore the lessons we must learn going forward. But the report covers so many more aspects of the impact on parents including ‘mental health services’, ‘workplace discrimination & redundancy’ and ‘recovery funding and the “baby blind spot”’ (just to list a few!).
The new HoC report looking back on this journey
A new report has just been published (in October 2021).
This was following the House of Commons Petitions Committee hearing evidence from panellists about the issues faced by both parents and baby and toddler group providers during the pandemic. It outlines the confusion about support groups being listed as exempt from restrictions:
“Since last autumn, Government guidance has allowed up to 30 people to meet as a “support group” (specifically including parent and baby groups), in an exemption from restrictions on gatherings. Witnesses suggested that while this exemption had been “really helpful” in giving some groups the confidence to restart, many others had not done so, depriving parents of what Dr McMullen described as “a vital safety net”.
–HoC Petitions Committee
Emily suggested parent and baby group organisers were wary of restarting classes following negative experiences last winter. Even with such groups having been exempted from restrictions on gatherings and now the removal of legal restrictions. She told the committee:
“We did a survey and it said that 24% [of providers] are still very confused as to whether they can go back. Some of them are quite traumatised from their experience back in November. We were telling them that they were allowed, the DfE was telling them that they were allowed. But still, their councils were coming in, forcibly in some cases, with police, shutting them down […] We definitely need to look at what we do going forward, in case there are any further issues.“
How the closure of groups affected parents
The impact of not being able to run classes on providers is clear. But the lack of face to face classes and the support they provide had a massive impact on parents too. The report found that:
Witnesses were also concerned the pandemic may have a long-term scarring effect on the provision of community-led support groups and parent and baby groups. Emily Tredget suggested parent and baby group providers had seen an average drop of 63% in their revenues over the last 12 months. While Dr McMullen cited figures from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) suggesting many charities organising such groups had also seen financial losses. We heard that families in more deprived areas may be particularly affected by the loss of such services.
-HoC Petitions Committee
The road ahead for baby and toddler groups after the pandemic
We’re at the stage where many (almost the majority) of legal restrictions that were put in place before have been lifted. And that means so many more baby and toddler classes are back and running in person again. Which is just fantastic!
Class providers carry out their own risk assessments to make sure classes are safe and secure. And, as always, are welcoming and fun for parents and their little ones.
We all hope that we’ve seen the last of lockdowns (please!). But there are important things to learn if we do face them again. The report summarises:
Our inquiry last year heard compelling evidence on the crucial role of community support and parent and baby groups in supporting new parents’ wellbeing. The Government’s recognition of this in exempting such groups from some gathering restrictions last year was very welcome. However, the Government must now do more to clarify how organisers of these groups and classes can offer these services in a safe and responsible way following the lifting of most legal restrictions. The Government should produce clear and dedicated guidance for organisers of community and charity-run support groups (including parent and baby groups) on how they can safely restart and continue classes in a covid-safe way. It should work with group organisers, local authorities and other relevant sector stakeholders to develop this guidance and ensure it is widely communicated.
-HoC Petitions Committee
Have you been back to baby and toddler groups after the pandemic?
Have you been to a baby or toddler class since restrictions were lifted? We know (from following so many class providers on social media) just how delighted they are to be back. And they’ve been sharing lovely feedback from the parents who are loving being back in class too.
Feeling a bit nervous about going back? You don’t need to be: